Some guns serve high-speed high-volume adventures where the higher the round count the greater the fun. That applies to some competitive venues, not to mention hog and prairie dog hunting. And don’t forget the joys of sending countless rounds at an informal range with friends and family. As you’ll see in this Christensen Arms Traverse review, this gun heeds another calling.
When the game moves slowly, the prey is large, intelligent and far better designed for the terrain, you need a different tool, a different gun. Your rifle should be sturdy but light, rugged yet accurate, comfortable to wield. For crying out loud, it should look good. That’s not all, however. One last and critical thing: your rifle simply must carry easily. We just described the Christensen Arms Traverse rifle.
Before you dismiss this as marketing drivel, you might want to read the rest.
Some years ago at SHOT Show, the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoors Trade Show, I ran across Christensen Arms. Sitting on the table at their booth were AR pattern rifles with carbon fiber wrapped barrels. It was the first time I’d ever seen the tech. Fast forward most of a decade to Fall 2019. Drawn to the mountains I find myself in Colorado, elk tag in hand. I need the rifle I described above so a good friend/gun industry wizard pointed me back to Christensen Arms.
Bear in mind that like many of you I wasn’t really up to speed on Christensen Arms. I had no idea they were located in Utah, that the company is full of backcountry high altitude hunters or much of anything else. Well, I did remember the carbon fiber wrapped barrels and figured that they must be great. That said, SHWAT™ was not unknown to them and in short order, they supplied me with my own Traverse rifle, no strings attached. From my perspective, that looks like confidence.
The Traverse Rifle
If you look at the Christensen Arms website, at first glance you might think that their Modern Precision Rifle would have been more SHWAT™-like. Hopefully, we’ll get to experience the MPR soon enough, but I needed a 300 WSM rifle and that ruled out the MPR. Had I known how long I’d carry the Traverse I would have picked it anyway.
The Christensen Arms Traverse is a purpose-built hunting rifle, which explains why it comes in 300 WSM. Why did I want a 300 WSM rifle? Easy, after Pro Staffer Casey Jones’ Norma Bondstrike ammo test, we were sold on it for big game and I had boxes of it in 300 WSM. Have a different favorite flavor of big game calibers? The Traverse is available in plenty of them:
- 22-250 Remington
- 243 Winchester
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- 6.5 PRC
- 6.5-284 Norma
- 26 Nosler
- 270 Winchester
- 270 WSM
- 7mm-08 Remington
- 280 Ackley
- 28 Nosler
- 7mm Remington Magnum
- 308 Winchester
- 30-06 Springfield
- 30 Nosler
- 300 WSM
- 300 Winchester Magnum
- 300 RUM
- 300 PRC
Old School Marries New School
If you know SHWAT™ you know we’re not really attached to old school guns. We love modern tech and tactics and guns that excel in those areas. The Christensen Arms Traverse takes the old school Monte Carlo concept (what Christensen literally describes as “time-honored styling”) and marries it to cutting edge tech in flat out sexy package.
The Christensen Arms Traverse Stock
Let’s start with the Traverse stock. Wood? Nope. Polymer? Nope. Christensen molds the Traverse rifle stock out of carbon fiber! That makes it lightweight and stiff. Planning on chasing game long distances in the backcountry? Lightweight becomes mission critical. If your stock flexes during recoil, you compromise the accuracy of your barreled action. Of course, the Traverse stock looks amazing.
Like Ford’s Model T, the Traverse comes in any color you like as long as it’s black. Unlike the boring black of the Ford, the Traverse stock sports a great looking gray webbing for contrast.
Working our way from the butt forward, the Traverse stock features a Limbsaver recoil pad, mitigating some felt recoil for you. The raised comb works great for right-handed shooters, but I imagine the shaping on top makes it a no-go for lefties. Christensen offers southpaws rifles built for them in the Ridgeline and Mesa models.
Moving forward we find the subtle yet full palm swell. Take that little detail away and suddenly you’re stuck with a much less appealing stock.
In front of the action and bottom metal the Traverse stock benefits from a modified beavertail forearm. More or less flat and wider on the bottom than the top, the forearm is easy to grip for offhand shooting. Obviously, that’s important but I discovered something else in my over the hills and through the woods pursuit of Colorado elk: The slight swell forearm takes shape makes a world of difference in carrying this rifle.
I carried it in warm dry weather. I carried it in the cold and in the wet. Sure, it was often slung, but when in my hand that little swell meant that I didn’t need a death grip on the gun when held vertically. It provided a great balance point when walking, holding the Traverse in my right hand. That design feature is a little thing that makes a big difference. Someone at Christensen should get a raise.
At the front bottom of the forearm you’ll find a four-inch Picatinny rail. As someone who has bipods and tripods set up for pic rail attachment, I value this feature. I didn’t always have one attached when hunting, but it makes for quick change options in the field.
Of course, the Traverse stock has sling studs front and rear.
The heart of the Traverse is the Christensen Arms bolt action. The bolt glides smoothly in the 416 stainless steel receiver. The matte-finished receiver adds a visually compelling element to the overall look of the rifle. Yes, that matters to me, I like my guns to look good. Honestly, don’t you?
The twin lug nitride treated bolt appears to be designed for reliability, a big deal if you’re on a bucket list hunt or plan on eating what you shoot. An M16 style extractor and dual ejectors in magnum calibers nicely sling brass out of the enlarged ejection port. I know I already mentioned the looks of the Christensen Traverse a few times, but yeah, those flutes on the bolt impress me.
As with many other modern bolt actions, the Traverse oversized bolt handle optimizes operational ergonomics. I particularly like the flutes machined into the handle. They keep it from being slippery. When it’s time to remove the bolt, you’ll find the release large and easy to use.
I find the more or less three-pound trigger satisfying. With more than a hundred rounds through the Traverse rifle, I’ll say the trigger is clean with no discernible creep. I wouldn’t say it breaks like glass, but as someone who routinely replaces triggers, I have no plans to change this one.
A zero MOA (Minute Of Angle) pic rail tops the receiver and machined billet aluminum bottom metal utilizing a hinged floor plate for easy unloading round everything out.
Traverse Carbon Fiber Wrapped Barrel
It was the Christensen Arms carbon fiber-wrapped barrels that got my attention years ago. Given the length of this Traverse review, I’ll only summarize here but the tech behind what Christensen Arms does with these is worthy of its own review.
Christensen Arms grew out of aerospace and prosthetic manufacturing. Concerns like strength to weight ratios and rigidity are mission-critical there and that experience pays dividends on their rifles. Other things being equal, a stiff barrel is more accurate than one that whips significantly when the gun fires. The 416R stainless steel barrel gets wrapped in aerograde carbon fiber to deliver a uniquely stiff and lightweight barrel that gets free floated. Made with a match chamber and combined with the action, this allows Christensen to offer a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee.
The threaded muzzle comes with a stainless steel side baffle break that is pretty good. Removable plugs in the top allow you to tune the brake to control muzzle rise. That’s pretty cool, but I haven’t tried it yet. As a general rule, I prefer every gun – mine and yours if you’re nearby – suppressed. I know, there’s a time and place for everything…
Traverse Review Conclusions
The Traverse rifle from Christensen Arms makes me smile when I look at it, handle it, shoot it and carry it. Built for long backcountry carry and few well placed shots, I’m supposed to find at least one thing to criticize for this Traverse review to be credible. I’ll leave that to someone else. I’m not left-handed, and so far I just can’t find anything I don’t like. I guess a shorter barrel option might be nice when running suppressed. Happy now?
The Traverse seems rugged enough to be shot plenty, but that’s not really the point. Christensen built the 7.3 pound the short action Traverse for backcountry long distances hikes across tough terrain. That plus accurate engagement of that once-in-a-lifetime trophy or the annual meat supply. That’s lots of miles on foot and a single shot. I didn’t get to take that shot on an elk, unfortunately, but Pro Staffer Wes Malik of Kat Haas Outdoors took a deer while hunting with the Traverse. He’ll tell you it made all the difference. You can pick one up for $2395.